Week 34 Day 7
Finding God in the Mysteries of every day
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Matthew 5: 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
Of all of the outrageous statements made in Matthews account of these teachings of Jesus this is perhaps the one that is the most antithetical to the prevailing ethos of the world in which we live. The sin nature has a field day with these words, as it has had with the Old testament text to which Jesus refers. (Exodus 21:24-25) Originally the command was given to prevent the kind of excesses that we find so common today in the “over the top” responses that occur with startling frequency. (Almost makes on think of the scripture: Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.)
At first reading this scripture seems to lead us toward a passivity which is at once self -destructive and foolish. However, putting the thoughts of Jesu in context we can see that these are spoken to a people occupied by a foreign, military power. Under the martial law of the Romans ordinary citizens could be forced to carry the burdens of a Roman soldier for one mile. Jesus sees in that an opportunity to turn the whole thing on its head and by so doing opens the door to the possibility of wining over the Romans one soldier at a time to a more peaceful and tolerant relationship. Quisling? Collaborator? Or, is this just the kingdom way of wining people one heart at a time.
The degree to which any of us can comply with this teaching is of course dictated by one’s level of maturity in Christ, and by the circumstances in which they find themselves. Make a list in your ow journal of all of the ways in which this scripture is troubling to you. Pride, justice, fairness, legality, anger, frustration, just plain hatred, weakness, somebody else’s fault…What’s on your list?
Now, what is the remedy? The whole of the exercise her is to demonstrate our need for the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit to live out Jesus’ teaching.